The Importance of Scribes in Egypt
Advice to Egyptian Scribes
Ancient Mesopot amia & Egypt were t he f irst cult ures wit h a
writ t en language.
Only a f ew people knew how t o writ e, so each cult ure
designat ed scribes t hat were t rained t o writ e as a prof ession
The earliest writ ings include t ext s in which lit erat e skills are
praised and in which yout h learning t o writ e are encouraged
t o pursue t he career of a scribe.
Advice to Egyptian Scribes
Amunemone, t he overseer of t he record keepers of t he
t reasury of Pharaoh, spoke t o t he scribe Pent awere, af t er he
heard t hat he had abandoned writ ing.
Amunemone t alked about how working in t he f ields was a
dif f icult and dangerous j ob, and reminded Pent awere of t he
bet t er lif e and superior st at us t hat belonged t o all scribes of
t he t ime.
Advice to The Youthful Scribe
Young scribes would copy passages of advice in order t o
pract ice t heir writ ing.
“O scribe, do not be idle, do not be idle, or you shall be curbed
st raight way. Do not f ive your heart t o pleasures, or you shall
f ail. Writ e wit h your hand, recit e wit your mout h, and
converse wit h t hose more knowledgeable t han you...”
The Hardships of the Soldier's Life
Young scribes would also copy passages about how t he lif e of a
scribe is bet t er t han t hat of any ot her worker.
“What is it t hat you say t hey relat e, t hat t he soldier' s is more
pleasant t han t he scribe' s? Come, let me t ell you t he condit ion
of t he soldier, t hat mush cast igat ed one. He is brought while a
child t o be conf ined in t he camp. A searing beat ing is given his
body, an open wound inf lict ed on his eyebrows...”
Dialogue Between A Mesopotamian
Schoolboy and an Adult
Mesopot amian scribes, like Egypt ian Scribes, were also well-
aware of t here special st at us in societ y.
St udent s would copy passages t o pract ice writ ing, such as t his
one t hat was writ t en in t he Sumerian language.
“Adult : Young man, are you a st udent ?
Schoolboy: Yes, I am a st udent .
Adult : I f you are a st udent , do you know Sumerian?
Schoolboy: Yes, I can speak Sumerian.
Adult : You are so young; how can you express yourself so well?...”
Examining the Evidence
What does t he Mesopot amian st udent claim t o have already mast ered?
I n t he Dialogue passage, t he st udent claims t o have mast ered t he Sumerian language.
According t o t hese t ext s, why are scribes so import ant f or t he proper f unct ioning of
Scribes were so import ant in societ y because t hey were t he only people who had
t he skill t o record import ant event s, document s, and t axes.
According t o t hese document s, why is t he lif e of a scribe superior t o t hat of ot her
The lif e of t he scribe was superior because scribes had a higher st anding in
societ y and a lif e of very lit t le physical labor.